Portland, Ore. --
Reigning West Coast League Player of the Week Zander Clarke launched two home runs, Joey Cooper also homered and Portland pitching fanned 17 hitters in a 13-5 win Tuesday over Cowlitz. The game was played under fireworks after the seventh inning strech, in front of a Walker Stadium record 2,807 spectators.
The win is the fifth straight for Portland and sixth in the last seven games. Their record rises to 16-8, increasing their lead in the South division to 2 full games over Walla Walla (15-11) and 2-1/2 games over Corvallis (13-10). Portland will play twenty-six games in the first half of the season rather than the previously allocated twenty-seven, meaning the first half ends at the conclusion of the Cowlitz series this Thursday night.
The division winner of the first half of the season clinches a playoff spot for August.
Portland got the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning, with Mikey Perez singling and Joey Cooper reaching on a hit by pitch. After two outs, Noah Cardenas came throught with a two-run double to the gap in right-center to score both baserunners and make it 2-0 Pickles.
Cowlitz knotted things in the third with a two-run homer by Ryan Kim, but the Pickles answered in the bottom half which saw a Gio Diaz leadoff single followed by a Davis Delorefice two-run jack to left-center. It was Delorefice's first long ball of the summer, and it gave Portland a 4-2 lead.
The fourth inning saw more fireworks at the plate, as Jace McKinney singled and Diaz's sacfirice bunt was thrown away into center field. Delorefice picked up a 3rd RBI with a sac-fly that scored McKinney, and Zander Clarke crushed a 3-1 pitch to left-center for another two-run shot, his fifth of the WCL season, extending the lead to 7-2. Mikey Perez followed with a double and scored later in the frame on a Jack Murphy two-out knock for an 8-2 advantage.
Portland had two outs nobody on in the sixth, but Clarke singled along with Perez to keep the inning alive. Clarke scored from third on an errant pick off throw to first, and Cooper followed with a two-run blast to right-center to make it a three-run frame and an 11-2 lead.
Cowlitz scored twice to get within 11-4 in the seventh, but Clarke's second homer of the night, a towering blast to deep center that is still being searched for in Lents Park, put an exclamation point on the Pickles win, a final of 13-5.
Leo Nierenberg (W 1-1) started and pitched four innings, allowing two runs on two hits and striking out six. Nick Sparks also struck out six but conceded six walks in his 2-2/3 innings of relief along with two runs. Daniel Copeland went 1-1/3 innings, striking out three, and reliever Adam Davenport pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Seventeen strikeouts were amassed in all, giving pitching coach Zach Miller's staff a total of sixty Ks over the past four games.
The Pickles play a split double-header on July 4th, first a 1:05pm affair against the Gresham Greywolves in non-league action, and the nightcap at 7:05 against Cowlitz in game two of the series, with a chance to clinch a playoff spot on the line.
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